by Rhonda Copelon
For complete article, see http://www.ontheissuesmagazine.com/2009winter/index.php
Torture is not limited to water boarding, as the current U.S. debate makes it seem; nor does it require any special equipment. The most common physical methods of both torture and domestic violence are beating, burning, tying up, choking, threatened asphyxiation (the goal of water-boarding), pulling out nails, stripping naked, mutilating, inflicting rape and other sexual assault, and threatening to kill or attack the victim’s children. Psychological torture includes subjecting the victim through threats and intermittent violence to persistent fear, sleep deprivation, humiliation and insult, particularly of a sexualized character. Torture involves cycles of oppression and release, and good cop/bad cop roles designed to fool people into trust. Battering, too, involves intermittent periods of wooing the victim, weeping and seeking forgiveness.
The pain and suffering inflicted is likewise severe. Battering too frequently results in femicide and, by comparison to official torture, women die in much greater numbers as result of intimate assaults, as described in the In-depth Study on All Forms of Violence Against Women by the UN Secretary General. Recent statistics from New York indicate that intimate violence is still the first cause of homicide against women.
Rhonda Copelon is a Professor of Law and Director of the International Women’s Human Rights Law Clinic (IWHR) at the City University of New York (CUNY) Law School.